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In Celebration Of The Stiletto

Posted: 06/02/08 03:27 PM ET

Stilettos are the shoes most charged with multiple different layers of meaning. From their birth from a nameless Florentine artisan for Catherine de Medici so she could make a stunning entrance into French court when she married her husband Henry II, to the story of the Little Mermaid, to the Roger Vivier comma heel, to Betty Paige, to Christian Louboutin's revolutionizing of the stiletto by adding the hidden platform and skyrocketing heel heights, there is no shoe more fraught with desire, passion and conflict than the stiletto.

There are women who want to wear Stilettos but find them too wobbly or painful, there are women who find Stilettos offensive, there are women who are Stiletto girls only and cant wear flats because their Achilles tendon has been shortened, there are women who wear their Stilettos only for special occasions, women (and men!) who wear them to the bedroom, women who never have worn a pair at all. They are infused with erotic desire, with high fashion silhouttes, and cultural symbolism. They are objects of lust among die-hard shoe fanatics, they are mini sculpture, works of art. The thousands of women I talk to every year about their shoes, all have at least one Stiletto story: whether it be the ones that make them feel like a queen, the ones they fell out of or the ones they hate. Nothing incites a woman's opinion more quickly than when you bring up the topic of a Stilettos. We all have a passion for them - whichever way our passions lay.

Stilettos and The Modern Woman

There is an episode of Sex and The City where Carrie goes to a baby shower. Looking fabulous as usual in a flowy dress and silver stilettos, when she arrives at the door she is asked in acid tones by the sister in law to remove her shoes in the foyer, as the hostess "doesn't like dirt in the house". Carrie is flummoxed for a moment. Someone is asking her to take off her shoes which, of course, are a foundational piece of the ensemble she has carefully assembled to present herself to the world - as she does every day. But, after a moment, and with a helpful glance from her best gay guyfriend, she complies with her usual can-do attitude. She gamely slips off her metallic Manolo Blahnik d'Orsay peep-toe pumps with magnificent silver buckles glistening with rhinestones and leaves them by the door as everyone else does. She goes in with a smile to enjoy the party, see her friend and celebrate the baby.

A few hours later the party is winding down and she returns to the foyer for her shoes as she says her goodbyes. To her shock and dismay her shoe have disappeared and are absolutely nowhere to be found. Someone has done the unthinkable and nicked her stilettos at the baby shower! And as the fact sinks in, Carrie's fallen face is the epitome of glum. She is not helped at all by the grungy Converse Chuck Taylors her dismissive hostess gives her to get home. A few moments later we see a forlorn Carrie walking home in the black, wornout Chucks, her spirit diminished, shoulders slumped, a light gone out.

In her usual Carrie way, Carrie goes on to reflect on this incident throughout the episode. She tries to track down her shoes, hoping someone realized their mistake (or succumbed to their guiltiness), to no avail. Her friend continues to be dismissive, almost patronizing in her behavior towards Carrie, and truly aghast when she offers to replace the shoes and learns their price, a fact that irks Carrie and sends her into an exploration of why certain people and certain cultural or societal moments are treated with such reverence - a marriage, the bridal shower, the baby shower - yet for those who do not participate in these societal markers, or may have different events to celebrate - like a launch of a book - are not rewarded similarly.

After much contemplation and, of course, discussion with her best girlfriends Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, she decides to "register" herself at Manolo Blahnik for the pair of heels that were stolen. After all, more than a decade of bridal and baby shower gifts totals much more than the cost of her shoes, and maybe now it is her turn to register for something.

She leaves a message on her friend's answering machine, letting her know she has registered. Her friend does the right thing - goes to the store, purchases them and sends them to Carrie, who is ecstatic when the box arrives.

While this may seem on the surface to merely be a cautionary tale: don't pay too much for shoes, or a zen-message of don't get too attached to material things or even a dictum from the fashion gods that silver is totally over, this is actually the fight for one woman to occupy her own space in the world. While her choices may be different than classic markers of societal milestones, and what she chooses to spend her hard-earned money on differs from her friends, nevertheless, they are her decisions, her right to be.

Her commitment to walking through her life in a pair of sparkly, Italian-made designer shoes is her right and her way to be in the world. And while she may wear the occasional bedroom slipper at home, or a flat sandal at the beach, or a clog when she's re-doing the wood floors with her boyfriend Aidan, what matters is in that moment that was how she chose to be, to carry herself, to exist in the world; towering, delicate, beautiful and shiny. And when her friend honors that wish, her being, the world is again righted.

It does not matter if you are a clog girl, a flip flop girl, a platform girl or a motorcycle boot girl, single or married, kids no kids, stepkids, adopted kids or pets. House or apartment. City or country. When a woman chooses her shoes, she chooses the way she operates in the world. How she is physically occupying the world and how she relates to it.

As women we have many moods, many roles: sister, friend, aunt, CEO, employee, artist, engineer, writer, decorator, gardener, mother, architect, grandmother. The stiletto is one expression of our feminine power that gives us the ability to tower, to command our strength to show off our divine feminine form, our light, even if just for a moment, for all the world to see.